Phil Foden reveals how England can solve attacking woes at Euro 2024

Phil Foden reveals how England can solve attacking woes at Euro 2024

In a tournament where England have been criticised for not linking up well in attack, Phil Foden believes the team must come together on the pitch to solve the problem themselves and show leadership.

The playmaker admitted he has been frustrated they haven’t clicked but said that isn’t due to manager Gareth Southgate’s tactics – rather the players must take responsibility. Foden claims they have felt inhibited due to the nature of matches and defensive opposition approaches but believes the squad need to be more proactive.

While the 24-year-old admitted that he wants to play centrally for England, he denied there is any issue in his own connection with Jude Bellingham, and believes that the performance level is growing.

Southgate’s supposedly stellar attack have only scored four goals in four heavily-criticised matches so far, culminating in the extra-time 2-1 win over Slovakia.

“I don’t know for the others, but I have been a little frustrated,” Foden admitted. “I am not going to lie. I want to try and score, do better things for England and, like I said, it has not worked out but it is about keeping a good mentality.”

Foden believes that extends to the players taking a more proactive role on the pitch. He felt that was especially a problem in the 1-1 draw against Denmark, where they almost meekly “accepted” the way they were being pressed.

Phil Foden has urged the England players to take responsibility for the issues (Getty Images)

“I feel like the players have got to take some of the blame,” Foden said. “There has to be some leaders to get together and find out a solution to why it is not working. There is only so much the manager can do. He sets you up in a system and tells you how to press. If it is not going like that you have to… you never decide when a person is going to drop deep, as well. Maybe change the formation you are not used to. The players have got to adapt to what the other team is doing to be better.

“That’s what I spoke about before – maybe not just sitting back and accepting it. I feel like just having a chat maybe when the ball goes out, getting together having a chat and saying, ‘what’s going wrong?’ I feel like against Denmark we didn’t really do that. We just kind of accepted that they were putting pressure on us.

“You can obviously prepare for a game but you can’t prepare for players moving out of position and making it awkward for you, so hopefully now going into this game we can get it right. It is something we have definitely spoken about recently and, going forward, hopefully you will see a different side to us pressing-wise.”

It was put to the Manchester City playmaker that he and teammates are used to the more sophisticated systems of managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, but he disputed that.

Gareth Southgate has been criticised for being too conservative as England boss (AFP via Getty Images)

“I feel sorry for Gareth,” Foden explained. “He has not set out to do that. In training he has been telling us to press and be high up on the pitch and I feel like, sometimes, it has to come from the players. We have to be leaders and I feel like in those games we could have got together a little bit more and worked out a solution. So yes, I feel like we have spoken about it more and if it happens again in a game, we can get together and find a solution and see where it is going wrong and adapt our press.”

Almost as interesting as Foden’s calls for the players self-correcting was his discussion of his role and how he interacts with Bellingham. Debate over their dynamic has become one of the themes of England’s tournament and even calls for one to be dropped. Foden was frank about where he wants to play but stated that movement into the centre has become part of his game for Southgate anyway.

“I think I have shown this season for City that I have moved more centrally and the goals have gone up and I have influenced more games so, I have always said I have been honest about my position and I have always seen myself as playing midfield. I feel like even though I have started on the left, I have drifted into those positions.”

Foden also feels his level has improved.

“The first game was very quiet, in terms of how the game went I didn’t have much going forward for myself. I feel like the next games after that I grew. I came close a few times — I was offside in the last game, just. Against Denmark I hit the post. I feel like my performances from the first game have improved a lot and if they go in no one’s saying anything and that’s just the way football is.”

The lack of link-up between Foden and Jude Bellingham has been highlighted as an issue for England (REUTERS)

Foden does believe his positional work in the team has been overlooked, as England have been forced to work without the ball more.

“Some of the games have not been us. We want to play possession football and sometimes the game’s not gone that way and you have to dig deep and defend. I’m one for always working hard. If you look at my stats the majority of the time I’m the one who’s run the most. People don’t see that side of the game which is important.”

It is that criticism, that this has not been England, that has brought the criticism of Foden’s interplay with Bellingham.

“I don’t agree with that, I feel we do work well together. Like I said, it’s just the way the games have gone sometimes and the way football works. I feel like in the last game we did build on it really well, in terms of keeping the ball, a lot more, we piled pressure on the end. I feel like it can hopefully click together in the last game.”

Foden feels that can directly come from his forward partner’s decisive and spectacular contribution to equalise against Slovakia.

“The way we won the game, it’s helped us in a way. I feel like it’s given us so much more belief now, going into the next games, to win it in the way we did, a lot of emotions, so… we have to remain focused now, and go into the next game, and just try and build on it because we know we can do a lot better than we’ve done so it’s all about growing and being better.”

Anthony Gordon (right) has been mooted as a potential player who could start ahead of Foden (PA Wire)

Foden was actually walking off the pitch in the seconds before Bellingham scored that bicycle kick, and jokingly admits he had some doubts about how it would finish.

“I thought I’m 30 seconds away from doing baby feeds at home… so thanks to Jude for that, thanks for doing it, saved me there. No, honestly, it just sums Jude up, he never gives up until the end.”

That does reference what had seemed a disruption to Foden’s tournament, in the birth of his third child, but he states it was “planned”. He also praises Southgate for being very good on such issues. And now, he is fully ready to go.

“I have not been the best player in the Premier League to come here and not show it. I feel like every game I am moving forward and hopefully I can put on some good performances. That has always been my aim for England.”